Feb 12, 2010

Friday Feature, wait, what? and the 1up of epic proportions


A quick back story. Two weeks ago, Heather, of Edited to Within and Inch of my Life, gave me my first blog award, The Silver Lining Award. The next day, I awarded her the same award because she was number one on my list of hypothetical award recipients. Besides, I never follow rules. So, what does she do? She gives the award back to me fivefold! It was hilarious and infuriating at the same time because, let's face it, I am a last word type of person. I threatened her in a bad-bluff kind of way...but here is my 1-up: I am being featured at her blog today, so I am featuring her back! Haha, you so love it, don't you? I mean, every Friday we tune in to see who Heather's next feature will be, the next person to provide us with the wise insight we need to feed off of each week in order to survive, like Edward needs deer. Personally, I have always wanted to know Heather's answers to her own questions. We love her, she loves us, and we are on the eve of something big (W.I.B.I.J.?! (sorry, details not yet available, I know so unfair)).
Everyone, please, turn off the TV and your child and help me welcome Heather Kelly. Today, Heather and I both take the seat as interviewees for the first time. Today is also the first time I've interviewed anyone on my blog. Never will I ever do it again. Right? Nope. ?
Without further ado, since I've already created enough fuss, here is the interview you've all been waiting for:
(Also, credit for almost all questions goes to Heather herself. You'll recognize the ones I came up with.)

Bio: I have been lots of things in my life, and expect that I will be a lot more in the space of a lifetime. I have seen the Northern Lights, rowed in early morning darkness, observed a Basque riot (a bit too closely if you ask my sense of self-preservation), met an amazing man, made lots of permanent friends, and heard three little voices profess their big love for me, their mom. I love living in those small, in between moments. Currently I am a wife, mom, and writer.
Thanks, Jon, for interviewing me on your blog! What an honor!

1. What are you currently working on?
Right now, I am revising a Middle Grade Novel, working title, FALLEN STAR, and ruminating about the revisions on a cuspy (right on the cusp of MG) YA, working title DREAM QUEEN.
For your reading enjoyment, here is the unpolished query of FALLEN STAR:
When a boy has no one left to turn to, and a star just won't accept her place in the universe, two worlds collide with a big bang.

Most stars are born ready for the mundane jobs of keeping the universe in order and balance--patrolling space, banishing rogue comets, and monitoring life on planets. But not this star. Born of a wonder and fueled by thoughts, she flies when she should hover, and bumps into things which should never be disturbed. She's expected to settle into being a student at the school of Earth. But she's not the settling type.

For a thirteen-year-old, he's got some cosmic problems of his own. His older brother is sick, his mom has checked out of life, and his sister is supremely annoying. Life is now about so much more than playing second base on the baseball diamond. Fresh from a visit to his brother in the hospital, the boy wishes the wish that pulls the star down to Earth. He races to fix the mess he made, and finds that he has to be more than just a little brother to right the world. It is up to him and his fallen star to keep her from going Supernova, and from destroying, well, his entire universe.

2. What made you start to write seriously?
I remember struggling with writing dialogue in 3rd grade (and...I still struggle). Then, in 7th grade, I had Mrs. Eckles as an English teacher. She assigned us a paper, due each friday. If your paper contained even one run-on sentence, then you failed that paper. She was a taskmaster. And, for some reason, I loved her. When she asked if anyone had a novel in them, I was the only one in the class who raised my hand.
Convinced that I wanted to be a journalist, I attended a high school journalism conference in Washington DC. However, I strongly disliked every single journalist who spoke to us about their profession. It was Cornell West who hooked me when he spoke about race relations in the United States. That's when I decided that I wanted to help people. So, when I went to college, I majored in Psychology and Sociology. I could always write, right?
Out of college, I worked with multi-handicapped kids at Perkins School For the Blind (and met my husband there), and then I worked at a school for abused, violent teenage girls. It has always been a dream of mine to be a foster parent, and I'm hoping someday to realize that dream. My husband and I have three kids of our own, and when I decided to stay at home with them, I started writing a middle grade adventure story. When it was finished (the rough draft of a sad, first novel), a friend of mine, Robert, (who had quit his job to launch a non-profit and write novels) started attending our church, since his partner was an intern minister there. (What a coincidence!) We started writing and revising our novels together, and I started taking my writing seriously. Boy, was it a long road!

3. What stage are you at, currently, in your journey toward publication? And--how is that going for you? Has anything surprised you about this stage?
Currently I am trying not to rush to the querying stage. I want my writing to be up to par to bring this current story to publication. So, I am in revisionland. I am surprised at how patient I could be at this stage. And at how very long this stage could be.

4. If you had to pick one favorite blog, what would it be?
Really? Who would ask such a question? :-) I cannot possibly choose favorites among my writer-friend blogs. I get something I need from each one of them. Camaraderie, knowledge, support, laughs, perspective...I could go on all day. The one industry blog that I never miss is the Rejectionist. She makes me howl with laughter.

5. What is a favorite blog post that you have written?
Well, I love each Friday Feature. I love finding out more about my fellow writers. But, I didn't really write any of those. Hmmm. I would have to say my 'At Least You Don't Have Burritos On YOUR Face' post. Sorry Jon--I know you're not a big fan of those burritos. That post was written about one of those moments that took me out of my hurry--out of my hectic day--and made me laugh. I'm giggling right now. And, connecting meat-on-a-stick to writing? There's nothing better than that. But I also like The Simple Act Of Writing, which features my favorite Neil Gaiman quote, and Dashings and Crashings, which explores my early love of books.
6. What online resource have you found most helpful?
Erica Orloff's blog is my favorite on-line resource, even though it is a blog. (See how I'm being difficult and blurring the lines?) I love the discussion that gets started there each morning. A discussion which includes both published and unpublished writers. Food for my writing soul. And Erica taught me how to be a graceful blog host.
Were there resources you found confusing in the beginning, but are now lifesavers?
I guess that Verla's fits the bill here. It took me a few attempts to not feel completely overwhelmed there. There is an amazing amount of resources and people who are always willing to help out a fellow kidlit writer.

7. What has been your biggest trial in writing?
Having patience. And the FEAR that I'm not skillful enough to tell my stories as well as they deserve to be told.

8. What tricks have you acquired to make you write or create when you don’t feel up to writing?
I go for a run. I always tend to come up with an answer, or a great detailed scene while on a run. Something about forward motion, and being in nature, I guess. Also--I have a soundtrack for each novel, so when I slip on my earbuds, and fire up the soundtrack, it forces me to think about the novel--whether I want to or not. Also--just opening up the document helps me plug back in when I slack off.

9. Tell us about a book that has impacted your writing life.
I love Madeleine L'Engle. I feel connected to her, and wish that she was still living. I find her journal, A CIRCLE OF QUIET to be a comfort and inspiration in my writing life.
Have you forced, or gently suggested, this title on to others?
I did write a blog post that featured a quote from her journal. A quote about a time when she decided to give up writing, after ten years of rejection, and learn to make cherry pie. And guess what? She couldn't quit. After being rejected for ten whole years. So, I guess I forced the story upon all of my followers (and just now, upon all of yours). However, I feel as though we all follow different muses, so while I might suggest a book, it might not be the one that speaks to others.

10. What is your practical goal with your writing?
My practical goal is to get these two books polished up (one at a time), and sent out to agents. And to start writing another book, which is stewing in my mind as we speak. A cool futuristic dystopia story.
Do you have a reach-for-the-stars goal that you would like to share?
Getting published, and holding my books in my hands feels like reaching for the stars. If I had to reach for a faraway galaxy, I would say, I would like to write a book that becomes a friend to a child. If I had to reach for a distant universe? I would love to write successfully enough to help make my family's future even brighter.
11. So far, what has been the best part of your writing experience?
By far, all the friends that I have met along the way. When I was living in Spain for a semester, I learned a term that I love that describes the instant feeling that you have met a friend--to fall in well with someone. I have felt that way so much, that I have fallen in well with friendship with so many wonderful people, like minded and different minded, since I have started this writing journey. I feel badly for those poor writers who wrote before blogs and the internet!

12. If you were born in an ancient society, what would it be and what about that time would you want to tell today’s children?
When I was younger, I used to read those historical teen romances with the one name girl title, like "Cassandra". I always wanted to live in the one where Native Americans tread softly on this land. I would love to make moccasins and wear animal pelts, and live off the Earth. I'm probably seriously romanticising this, and it's really not very ancient, but there you go. I would tell today's children that when we connect with ourselves, and others, and nature, then we are living well. And, as a child, I had a fascination with the show Land of the Lost. Well, a fearful fascination with that show. I was pretty convinced that a girl-eating DINOSAUR lived in the woods behind our house, and that I would be the unlucky person to discover that dinosaurs really weren't extinct. So, if being an indian princess was my dream, then living in land of the lost was my nightmare!

13. If someone wrote a song about you, what would it be titled and give us a chorus.
Oh, my gosh. You are not letting me off easy, are you? I think I'm going to ask you this question in the comments over on my Friday Feature.
One of my best friends in high school was a songwriting chick. She was good at it. But me? I'll leave the lyric writing to the songwriters. So, I'll call the song "Pieces of Me" and use a bit from some my favorites. A little bit of IG because when I'm writing, I often feel "open-eyed, but fast asleep", as if I've "just begun..." a little bit of Sinead, because I'm tough--"I haven't traveled this far to become no man's woman" a bit of Tori, since "I think fate is waiting on us," Dar Williams because I could teach you "how I learned to dance when the music's ended", U2 since I believe that "blessings are not just for the ones who kneel" and, Johnny Cash, since, you know, "I walk the line."

14. In what ways have your family and friends reacted to your decision to be a writer?
It's run the gamut between, "I don't think writers make much money" to sincere happiness that I have found something that keeps me happy. For me, writing itself is about seeing the possibility of a different future, and doing that one thing that makes me feel fulfilled, while I teach my own children to live fulfilling lives. I've had some really tough times in the past few years, and when I think of all the support that the universe has put in front of me--gracefully showing me that I should be writing--I'm in a bit of awe. Even if the possibilities of a writing career doesn't pan out, writing has gotten me through the tough parts of my life. So, when other people ask what I write, and smile cutely when I say that I'm writing for children, or nod and say, "I've always wanted to write a book..." Well, none of that matters. Writing got me through. And continues to do so.

15. And, finally, what prompted you to start the Friday Feature segment?
I started my blog to keep track of my writing goals, and chart my progress. But, I quickly learned that when things fell of the edge of my blog's first page, they fell out of sight, out of mind. So, that wasn't my blogging purpose after all. When I reconsidered what I wanted my blog to be, I decided that I wanted it to be a place to get to know and connect with people. And, I enjoyed reading interviews with authors, but I really wanted to find out what my fellow unpublished writers were doing--how they were dealing with the stresses and joys of the journey.
And I wanted to draw a continuous line between those who were published and those who weren't. This was the line that I saw at Erica Orloff's blog. She made me feel like I was connected, regardless of whether I was published, because I was a writer who desired to learn and grow in the craft. So, I wanted to stress that we were all along this one line, only at different places. Erica was my first interview, and from then on, it's been wonderful hearing everybody's story. I hope that people check back and read interviews that they might have missed, and I hope that it becomes a tool to connect people. I would love someone to have an agent look at their interview in order to find out more about them before signing them on. Oh, the fantasies in my brain! And I'd love to use it as a platform for people to get the word out about their books, once they are published.
Oh, dear, I think that Mrs Eckles would have failed me this friday. For wordiness and run-ons. Oh well. Thanks Jon, for interviewing me on your blog!

Thanks, Heather, for consenting to something so, well, FUN! I adore your answers and will be thinking about my own song all night. I challenge our readers to answer some of these questions, too. Heather will be checking back throughout the weekend to answer your questions and I will be doing the same over at her blog. NOTICE: I will not be posting my regularly scheduled posts on Saturday or Sunday, so I can get to everyone's questions and comments in a fair manner.

So, make sure you head over to Heather's blog and get to more about me and my journey to publication and beyond.

Ask away minions! I mean, okay, never mind, sorry.


  1. Woo-hoo!

    Jon--thanks so much for the interview, and thanks so much for the fun! I bow to your 1 up. You have indeed achieved the final word. I concede defeat! On this one, anyway.

  2. Well, thank you, for playing the pivotal role in my 1up! It's kind of twisted, bringing your own defeat upon yourself, but like you said, I am sure we'll have plenty more opportunities to battle things out.

    At least no one got hurt.


  3. Loved your interview with Heather, great questions and wonderful answers. I think she'd make an awesome foster parent and I can't wait to see Fallen Star in print (hopefully soon!) Thanks for sharing.

  4. Charlie, thanks for the kind words. I'll see what I can do about getting Star towards publication!

  5. Nice to get a fuller look at the story are working one. I love hearing what ideas other writers come up with me. It's just so interesting because we are all so different. :)

  6. Laura--I'm one of those people who never say much about what I'm working on...so I feel a little funny with the query out there. But, I do like to find out what other writers are working on. :-)

  7. I love your synopsis, Heather. Very unique premise!
    Love that you two are interviewing one another today! It couldn't happen to two nicer people :). I sincerely enjoyed learning more about you!

  8. Glad you did an interview with Heather. She has good answers. : ) It's always fun to see how other writers work. Now I'm off to read her interview of YOU.

  9. Kelly - Isn't that the berries?!

    Terry - Besides the dire need to 1up Heather, I sincerely wanted to know more about her journey. I am glad she said yes, she does have amazing answers, doesn't she?

  10. Jon, thanks for interviewing Heather. The interview-each-other on-the-same-day thing is funny, creative, and just keeps me smiling.

    It's been a pleasure learning more about Heather and her life experiences, and her books. Fallen Star sounds amazing. Thanks for sharing the details.

  11. I have to say I have been craving this. After reading so much about fellow writers at Heather's, it's about time to hear her story. Thanks for doing it, Jon. Great idea, great Job.

    Funny how these interviews seem to unveil so much more than regular blog posts. Thanks for sharing, guys!

    I loved your Fallen Star query! And I want to know, do you have a sound track for the other WIPs yet? How long does it take to make one?

  12. Kelly--Thanks! I hope the premise is unique enough. It's fun to do the dual interview today.

    Elliah--I had fun with Jon's questions. Although the one about the song about me had me up late! I can't wait to see what he comes up with in the comments at my blog!

    Paul--I'm hoping I can do the idea of Fallen Star justice in my follow through. It's like that Gaiman quote...

    Tina--Thanks. I do have a playlist for my YA as well. It's what I do first. I immerse myself in music. And think through all the ideas of the novel, before I start with any words at all. And for Fallen Star, I printed out all the lyrics, and actually started some of the writing in the margins of those lyrics. I found such inspiration within the songs that I chose for that manuscript.

    I think it takes me a couple of days to put the first playlist together, and it's great thinking time. I shift songs around a bit, and then I'm set for, yanno, the YEAR that I spend writing and revising the manuscript.

  13. Heather, I think you are wise to take your time with the querying. Just that you have the awareness that you hope you can do your synopsis justice is huge. I wish I'd had that awareness when I queried my first novel. I would've spent another year rewriting it.

    I'm intrigued by the playlist idea. I think that could open emotional doors. I might play with that. Thanks!

  14. As always, another fabulous idea...great gettin to know HK. Thanks!

  15. Tina--I feel the same about you!

    Paul--It is hard to take the time to do it right, especially since I'm waiting for my writing skills to catch up to my ideas. I'm hoping that the patience will actually pay off some day!

  16. I bow down to Heather & Jon, embodiments of integrity and fun.

  17. Robert - Thanks...I believe that is the first time anyone has used my name and integrity together in the same sentence. Now, bow and I go way back.

    Side note:
    The sun is shining for the first time in fourteen days!

  18. Anita--I agree, Jon has some great ideas! This one tickled my sense of symmetry.

  19. Hi Robert!! Thanks for the bow. We're having some fun today!

  20. Ha ha ha ha ha! This blog-swapping is too funny. Both interviews were so fun and interesting. Fallen Star sounds awesome! :-)

  21. Thanks Shannon! *nose going back to the grindstone to finish those revisions*

  22. Great interview. I think I'm going to go follow her now (not in a creepy way, though).

  23. Shannon, I know! I was laughing when I came up with the idea, a little.

    Ri - How do you think I got her to agree to this interview?

  24. I loved reading this interview. Heather, it was especially interesting to hear how you began doing Friday Features. I would say you're absolutely succeeding in your goal to bring writers, published or not, together.

  25. Mariah--Thanks. I've been lurking at your place, which I think is defintely more creepy that straight up following. So, I'm remedying that.

  26. Anna--I love the friday features. I love getting to know the people behind the blogs. And, it was a lot of fun to do this interview!

    Anna--you'll appreciate my word verification--natic!!

  27. Jon--I'm still trying to turn off my child. Is there a switch or something?

  28. Jon, you have come up with the best questions. Love the one about the song chorus! And Heather, it was fun to learn more about you and get some writing resource tips, too. Thanks to you both.

  29. Lori--I admit, that question was fun (if stress-inducing). I'm still waiting to see what Jon comes up with since I boomeranged that question back to him.

    I'm glad you got some tips out of the interview. I love to see the process of other writers! We all are so different in the way we work.

  30. Heather - It depends on the model. The Well-Behaved 2000 has two switches, but the TerriTot has been recalled, for faulty wiring. Does this help?

  31. I totally posted my song...maybe I forgot to do the word ver... :O

    Okay, I'll have to remember it.

  32. These are some of the best interview questions I've ever read. Fun interview!!

  33. Jon--sorry you lost your song. I'm still hoping to "hear" it.

    Angela--I know, Jon did not disappoint! He's the best. Thanks for stopping by! (look at me, pretending that this is my blog too!)

  34. I just wanted to say a big thanks again to Jon, for hosting these shenanigans. It's been so wonderful. And, I also wanted to say thank to everyone who had glittery comments about Fallen Star. You have all given me renewed energy toward my revisions! Thanks so much!